Reflections for the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008 and 2009.
They refer to the daily readings for the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time
August 28, Matthew 16: 21-27
The Gospel chosen for this Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time follows last week’s Gospel in Matthew. Peter had just answered Christ’s question, “Who do people say that I am,” with the response, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Now Jesus tells his disciples he is going to Jerusalem to suffer, be killed, and on the third day be raised. This news was a bit more than Peter could take. Once again, his great love for Jesus just would not hear of such a thing. And again his great love got him into a bit of trouble with Jesus, who rebuked him for saying that no such thing would ever happen. Peter’s love prevented him from believing the plan God had for our salvation; that his Divine Son would die upon the cross for our sins.
Peter, when he heard Jesus speaking of suffering and dying, only focused on the suffering and death part. He was unaware that this suffering and death would lead to new life. This is what we refer to today as the Paschal Mystery. We don’t understand it yet today; why should Peter have understood it then? The Paschal Mystery is just that – a mystery.
It is also a mystery to us why suffering is part of discipleship. If we are truly disciples of Jesus we are going to suffer for his values, we are going to die to ourselves for the love and service of others, we are going to be counter-cultural signs of Christ in a culture that has gone crazy with materialism, hedonism, secularism and a lot of other “-isms.” In doing this we open ourselves to the free gift of God’s grace which is nothing other than the new life that raises us above the ordinary human consciousness and gives us the happiness, peace and joy that we all desire deep in our hearts. It is a mystery to be sure why we must suffer, but when we see the results of happiness and joy, it seems to become less of a mystery, if there is such a thing.
The God of new life is so good to us! God’s ways, however, are not our ways. Thank heavens!
Monday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
August 29, Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist
The beheading of St. John the Baptist is recorded in all three of the synoptic Gospels. John had confronted Herod with the fact that Herod’s taking his brother’s wife, Herodias, as his own wife after he divorced his first wife, was unlawful. For this Herod had John thrown into prison. At a celebration of Herod’s birthday, he had invited many people and then proceeded to drink a little too much wine and became boisterous. When his daughter, Salome, performed a dance for the party people, Herod was so delighted that he made the rash promise to her that he would give her whatever she asked for. After asking her mother, Herodias, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. And so it happened.
The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote about this happening, stating that Herod performed this act, “lest the great influence John had over the people …. might raise a rebellion. So Herod thought it best to put him to death.” Herod regretted what he had promised Salome, but rather than humiliate himself by admitting his error, he went ahead with it.
Maybe we can ask ourselves on this Feast of the Martyrdom of St. John Baptist whether pride is contributing to any wrongdoing in my own life.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
August 30, Luke 4: 31-37
In the Gospel chosen to be read today, Jesus leaves Nazareth and goes to Capernaum. Capernaum lies along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and modern archeological evidence tells us that it was a very busy fishing village. Here Jesus is now going to perform a number of exorcisms, cures and healings. We have indicated before that the difference between sickness, disease and demonic possession was not very well defined in these early times and sometimes it all got jumbled together. Demons are not always the Devil, the Evil One. Also, many of these cures, etc., took place on the Sabbath, another practice which we have said numerous times kindled the wrath of the Pharisees and the Jewish people.
If we are wondering just what some of these “demons” might be, we could turn to the list given in St. Mark’s Gospel. To refresh our minds, that list included evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly. For good measure we could also throw into the mixture the various addictions to alcohol, drugs, food, emotions, sex, gambling, gossip and on and on. We have remarked before many times about out own inability to get rid of these things if they are in our lives. But all things are possible for Jesus. He is only too willing to remove these “demons” from us. All we have to do is have the desire to be rid of them and seek his help.
Wednesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
August 31, Luke 4: 38-44
Our Gospel selection for today shows us once again the healing ministry of Jesus. “At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him. He laid hands on each of them and cured them.”
This healing ministry is still a huge part of the Church’s ministry. We can see this in the Sacrament of the Sick and in the hospital ministry of the Church. Let’s not forget this ministry or pass it by when the opportunity presents itself. The minister of the Sacrament of the Sick must be a priest. This is so most probably because this Sacrament has as one of its effects the absolution of the sick person from their sins.
If you contract some serious illness such as chest pains, angina, bronchitis, diabetes, lung disease, etc., don’t be afraid to go to the priest, perhaps following the morning parish Mass, and ask him to minister this Sacrament to you. Or the same thing if you know you are going to be entering the hospital for some form of treatment. People who go to hospitals are sick! Also if you are a patient in a hospital, don’t be hesitant to ask to receive the Eucharist or to have a visit from the Chaplain.
The curing, helping, healing, caring ministry of the Church is still very much with us. Let’s not neglect it.
Thursday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 1, Luke 5: 1-11
St. Luke is the only Synoptic evangelist to tell this story of the miraculous catch of fish involving Simon Peter. John’s Gospel tells of a similar miracle following the resurrection of Jesus (John 21: 1-11). In this story Jesus speaks only to Peter despite the fact that early Christian art shows the boat to be full of people. Luke is preparing the readers for the leadership role Peter will later have in the Church and among the disciples.
This is indeed a fantastic story of a marvelous happening and it excites the people who witnessed it, including the disciples, with awe and wonder at the powers of Jesus. The one thing about this story, however, that catches my eye every time I read it are the closing words, “When they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” This spontaneity of action on the disciples’ part is absolutely fantastic to me. When most of us are called upon by the Lord to do this or that charitable work today (Why don’t you go and visit so and so in the nursing home today?), it can take any number of days before it is finally accomplished. Kind of reminds me of the Italian word domani. Domani is translated as “tomorrow”, but practically it can mean anything from tomorrow to three weeks from now.
Lord, give me the strength today not to put you off when I hear your voice.
Friday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 2, Luke 5: 33-39
My Commentary on the Scriptures tells me that the parable at the end of today’s Gospel about the new and old patches, cloaks, and wineskins has a twist to it. It says the lesson about the cloth and wineskins is easy for us all to follow and that it is based on good old common sense. You use old cloth to patch new, not the other way around; the fermentation process of new wine needs the elasticity of new wineskins, not the brittleness of old ones. Just common sense. But the final sentence, found only in the Gospel of St. Luke, is ironic: “And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
Jesus has just finished telling us the desirability of leaving the old for the new, but now admits that we often prefer the old to the challenges of the new (Ah!! The good old days). Particularly when we see nothing wrong or bad with the old. But, when we examine the metaphor, we see that perhaps there is something wrong about the old. Old threadbare clothing is of little use to anyone. And wineskins can be used only once, not over and over again. So – we must not let the comfort and security of the old blind us to the new blessings of Jesus’ Kingdom here on earth and in the hereafter.
It’s a new day!!! Amen.
Saturday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Sept. 3, Luke 6: 1-5
Today’s Gospel choice centers on the Sabbath discussion and the prohibition of work on the Sabbath we encounter so often in the Gospels. We have remarked often that it is one of the major causes of Jesus being put to death by the Sanhedrin.
This law prohibiting work on the Sabbath goes all the way back to Exodus 16: 23-29. In these verses Moses tells the Israelites how they are to collect the manna the Lord has given them for their daily food. They are only to gather enough for the day at hand and no more. They are not to collect it for two days at one gathering. If they do, the extra they take will turn rotten and wormy. This restriction applies until the sixth day of the week when they are to gather it also for the Sabbath, on which day gathering or any work of any kind is prohibited.
In today’s Gospel Jesus cures, which is fine; but he cures on the Sabbath and that is regarded as work and is not OK. Jesus didn’t do this just to do it or to make the Jews angry. Remember, he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it, to complete it. The fulfillment that he had in mind here is to let the people know the Sabbath represents the Lord’s Day or the eschatological Day of the Lord (the second coming) when suffering will cease and wholeness will be restored. To show this, Jesus restores the man’s withered hand on the Sabbath.
We might take a little time today to reflect on how we make the Day of the Lord special both for ourselves and for our families.